“I Never Felt Nun” is a trilogy album for EST Gee. The Louisville, Kentucky rapper previously released mixtapes titled “Ion Feel Nun” and “I Still Don’t Feel Nun” before opting to put out the third volume as a studio album with distribution from Interscope Records. If I haven’t made it clear though the distinction between “mixtape” and “studio album” has become negligible to the point of being non-existent. It used to be that the former was a collection of freestyles or the production of a well known deejay. When that distinction vanished a new one replaced it where mixtapes were free digital releases while studio albums got printed physically and sold in stores. Now in many cases there’s no physical album at all no matter what distribution you’ve got. I’ve lived long enough to see vinyl records make a comeback just because people will pay extra to have an album the can hold. Compact discs may go that way too.
One thing that hasn’t vanished is music videos. In fact in our increasingly digital distribution of hip-hop the important of clips like “Shoot It Myself” has only increased. Having Future on the track kills two birds with one stone — he raises the profile of EST Gee by association and increases the view count from fans who will tune in to see him shine. Both men literally shine too. I think even Slick Rick would be impressed by the amount of jewelry they have on, and it may be my imagination but the drum track sounds like it’s all clinking together as they walk. Westen Weiss & BeazyTymes are heavy on the bass and minimal on the melody. If you want that it’s up to Future’s modulated vocals to provide it. “One thousand one pure cocaine, spend it on one of my chains/one thousand one trillion bullets come behind my name.”
Features are definitely part of the promotion for “I Never Felt Nun,” such as Jack Harlow appearing on “Backstage Passes” and Machine Gun Kelly guesting on “Death Around the Corner.” Since I’m old enough to remember buying vinyl records, I’m old enough to remember a classic Tupac Shakur song by the same name, so it’s hard for even this star powered duet to replace it in my memory. My favorite collaboration here though is probably Gee-zy rapping with Jeezy on “The Realest.” He’s been around long enough to have certified O.G. status, and EST would be a fool to not tap into that credibility. There’s a laundry list of producers here so I don’t know whether to credit FOREVEROLLING, MoneyEvery, Kam Johnson or Nigel Talley the most. It sounds like a classic Rick Ross track though.
Much like Jeezy though I have mixed feelings when it comes to EST Gee. Here are the positives — he’s got a ton of charisma to his delivery, he’s spitting actual bars and not just lazily singing freestyles, and given the number of releases he’s done before this one the presentation of “I Never Felt Nun” has been polished to a high gloss. Then there’s the downside — he dubs a vocal layer over most of his tracks where he echoes his vocals in a raspy manner, with unnecessary ad-libs and sound effects to boot. It makes me feel like I’m listening to songs like “X” in an echo chamber, and while I appreciate he’s tried to develop a distinctive style that’s not like everyone else, I’m weary of it after nearly an hour of music.
EST Gee has been through a lot in his young life, including being shot five times at a music video shoot three years ago, nearly losing vision in one eye as a result. I can feel that struggle on songs like “Get Em’ Geeski” when he says things like “Can’t beat the streets with finesse/it ain’t no undoing death.” He presents the trappings of the trap, flaunts like the ballest of ballers, but dig beneath the surface and you see the mind of a man who is thinking long range having already come too close to death once.
The most difficult thing when it comes to reviewing releases like “I Never Felt Nun” is splitting a fine hair with a sharp razor. I want to like EST Gee more than I already do, and I appreciate a rapper who actually makes an album and not a ten song streamer that is under 15 minutes. Despite his youth there’s something decidedly old school about his commitment to a long player with real bars. Then I have to be honest with both Gee and the readers by saying that 21 songs might have been too much, there are audio elements that don’t work, and even though I see what Gee could be there’s a lot of repetitive topic matter here. You can only bust so many shots, do so many drugs, and fuck so many hoes until you’ve made it overly clear how masculine you are. If that’s all his fans want then “I Never Felt Nun” will be their TRT, but given both his real life trauma and the mind behind his music, I think he’s got a more interesting story to tell if he’ll give himself that chance.